If you missed it, it wasn't one of those pushing-and-shoving matches that baseball normally sees when the benches empty. It was a real fracas. A melee. A rhubarb, as the late Red Barber used to call it. So much for the World Baseball Classic being a glorified exhibition. This was serious.
Saturday afternoon, with Canada leading Mexico 9-3 in the top of the ninth inning, Canadian catcher Chris Robinson led off with a bunt single. Team Mexico's Luis Cruz (who plays for the Dodgers by the way), was infuriated, and signaled to pitcher Arnold Leon to hit the next batter. Leon threw the next pitch inside to Rene Tosoni, but didn't hit him. The next pitch was also way inside, but Tosoni was able to get out of the way. At this point (yeah, it took that long), home plate umpire Brian Gorman warned both teams. It didn't matter. Leon hit Tosoni in the back with the next pitch, both benches cleared, and the fight was on.
After the game, which Canada ended up winning 10-3 and seven players were ejected, both managers gave lame comments. Both blamed the tiebreaking format for the incident. One of the tiebreakers is run differential, meaning that teams, even in a blowout, should score as many runs as possible. Canada skipper Ernie Whitt says that is what his team was trying to do. However, the rule didn't really apply here. If Canada won the game, which they did, their next game against the United States would determine who advanced to the next round, no matter what the final score was.
On the other side, Mexico manager Rich Renteria says he thought he had explained the rule to his players, and took responsibility for his team not being prepared. Renteria may have explained the rule before the WBC began, but was he watching the game? After the bunt, Cruz motioned to his pitcher to throw. Renteria didn't see that? Then there were TWO pitches inside. Renteria could have gone to the mound, but didn't. Both benches were warned, and still nothing from the Mexican manager. The next pitch was a beanball.
Oddly, the international incident may have legitimized the World Baseball Classic. American fans in particular have been blasé about the WBC, now in its third incarnation. It takes place during spring training, there are pitch limits, and the United States hasn't done real well (Japan has won both previous Classics). Major League managers don't like it, because their players might get hurt, and General Managers are caught in the middle, because the WBC was Major League Baseball's idea in the first place. Now that fans and baseball executives in the United States see what an international championship like this means to the players, maybe they'll catch on. Baseball is no longer in the Olympics, and it is a global game. The World Baseball Classic is the only thing going right now to prove it.
Classic Dilemma: World Baseball Classic games are being shown on the MLB Network, which wasn't around for the last WBC four years ago. I understand the need for programming on that channel, but it reaches fewer homes. Games were previously televised on ESPN, which reaches a lot more living rooms. So what's the priority here? MLB wants more people to watch, but apparently not at the expense of their own network. I'm one of the millions that gets ESPN, but not the MLB Network, and I would be watching if I could. The games are televised in Spanish on ESPN Deportes, but I don't get that channel either.
Spring TV: Pitchers and catchers reported less than four weeks ago, and exhibition games have been underway for about two weeks, but now is when spring training gets serious. Between ESPN, WGN, and local Giants and A's telecasts, there will be 19 spring games on local TV in the next 20 days. It all began this morning with Cardinals-Yankees on ESPN. No games tomorrow or Thursday, but two games will be featured on March 19 and 24. The only Dodgers appearance comes March 24 against the Athletics.
Gold (Sox) Nuggets: Add another to the list of Gold Sox alumni to be active this spring. Curtis Partch is in major league camp for Cincinnati, and has pitched in 4 games (5 innings, 6 runs, 4 earned, 9 hits, 2 walks, 6 strikeouts). Partch pitched in a game for the Gold Sox in 2007 prior to the MLB Draft, and was in Double-A ball for the Reds last year. Max Stassi (Astros) is sidelined with a what is being referred to as a sports hernia, but there are others to keep an eye on. Tyler LaTorre (Giants) is playing for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic, and got a hit off his Giants teammate Ryan Vogelsong in the United States win over Italia. Pitchers Anthony Bass (Padres) and Marquis Fleming (Rays) are battling to make their respective clubs.
A Haiku for You: I didn't think that form of poetry was around much anymore, but Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports has written one about every team in his baseball previews. You remember the form from grade school. Three lines. The first has five syllables, the second seven, and the third five again. Here's the one Brown wrote about the Dodgers...The voice of the game
As a former boss of mine used to tell us about talking on the air—short, concise, and to the point.
My grandfather passed away 20 years ago this week. I miss him.